26 answers

Need Help with 8 Yr. Old's Messy Room

My daughter is 8 years old. She is wonderful, respectful and smart. She does almost everything I ask without a fight. She is a creative soul, something I am severely challenged in. I have tried to support her creativity by allowing her to use her room (almost) any way she wants. My problem is that she will not clean it up afterwards. I am not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagnation, but I do like a somewhat organized house. Her room is small and I worked hard to make sure there was place for everything. I try to let it go and remember that it is her space, and I need to be repectful of that. But after a while I lose it and end up angry at her. I feel like I am not being as consistent as I should be.

Should I just tell her I need it picked up each night, or just continually close the door and stay out of it.

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No don't just close the door or she won't ever learn about organization. That could affect other areas of her work life, school life, etc. I think that she should have to have it picked up before dinnertime. If she's late picking it up and comes to dinner late then she goes to bed early by the same amount of minutes.

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I think sometimes we all need someone to work with us. It can easily get overwhelming to a child especially. I'd let her pick out organizational items such as baskets, drawer organizers, hooks, etc. It makes it more fun. Go shopping together, then go in for a few minutes each night and make it quality time together. You may get more than a clean room out of it! You just need to develop a routine. If you feel like you are not being consistant, you are probably right. Repetition will be key to establishing a routine.

My son is also very creative and often he is in the middle of a project at the end of the day and wants to work on it when he has some free time. Some times it's several projects. We have a deal that every two weeks everything has to be put away or what ever is left out is donated to a worthy cause. I taught both my children early on how to clean there room so when it's time to clean up they do know where things go, and we always have a "junk drawer" for the misc. things. It works MOST of the time! :)

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No don't just close the door or she won't ever learn about organization. That could affect other areas of her work life, school life, etc. I think that she should have to have it picked up before dinnertime. If she's late picking it up and comes to dinner late then she goes to bed early by the same amount of minutes.

1 mom found this helpful

Your daughter is old enough to begin to develop good habits, physically and mentally. Practicing physical organization helps to develop mental organization. So for the sake of developing these skills, I believe that insisting that she "clean up" is a good practice.
It will benefit her for the rest of her life. If she knows how to organize, she will always have the choice to be neat or messy, and that give will give her a sense of freedom.
I suggest helping her for 15 minutes at the end of the day, when neither of you are too tired, so maybe just before dinner, or just after. Or you could focus on cleaning up at the completion of each project (difficult with a creative child).
Organization is not incompatible with creativity; it actually supports it because those two impulses create a balance.
While your daughter is 8 it is the ideal time to attempt the development of this habit, because when she is a teen-ager it will be too much of a struggle. Even the neatest and most organized children revert to extreme sloppiness during those years! But then comes young adulthood, and if he/she has developed the habits of neatness, organization and of cleaning up, it all comes back!
Good luck, G.

My daughter is also 8 and an absolute slob when it comes to her room (and elsewhere)! I call her my Hanzel and Gretel child because where ever she has been there is a breadcrumb of evidence that she has been there -- a gum wrapper, a juice bottle label. When we insisted she clean it up before she could do something she wanted, she "cleaned" her room. Her first "clean up" was putting everything somewhere -- under the bed, in her closet, in any drawer that was close. I'd find snips of paper or garbage in her drawers, dirty clothes in her toy drawers, books haphazardly on the bookcase or under the bed. It suddenly hit me -- she has NO organization skills. That has changed everything. The next time we cleaned her room together and talked about where everything could go. We organized everything in piles on her bed and then put everything away. Her room looked great for about a week, but she couldn't keep it up. I guess it's just the way her brain is. What finally worked is I wrote a chart for her to follow with step-by-step instructions and she gets points toward her allowance for the week if her room is clean that wee.. She follows the chart to the letter. It's very explicit: (1) take everything out from under the bed; (2) take everything out from the closet floor; (3) pick up dirty clothes and put them in the laundry; (4) pick up any garbage and throw it in the garbage can; (5) pick up books and put them on the bookcase; (6) pick up dolls and put them in the top drawer of the toy chest; etc. I labelled all the toy drawers to help her. We also put a sign on her wall that says, "If I take it out, I will remember to put it back where it goes." I'm not going to say it's a panacea, but her room is MUCH better! The moral of the story is not to punish a child for not having skills. You can offer rewards or punishments until the cows come home, but if the child doesn't have the skills, it doesn't matter -- it won't do anything except make them feel bad (or angry). It's the equivalent of punishing a child for not being able to do some type of math problems. You have to teach the skills they need to be successful.

I think sometimes we all need someone to work with us. It can easily get overwhelming to a child especially. I'd let her pick out organizational items such as baskets, drawer organizers, hooks, etc. It makes it more fun. Go shopping together, then go in for a few minutes each night and make it quality time together. You may get more than a clean room out of it! You just need to develop a routine. If you feel like you are not being consistant, you are probably right. Repetition will be key to establishing a routine.

I would teach her to clean up after herself now while you still can, I am struggling with three teenagers now because I did everything for them. Just have her straighten up after each project. THen, her room should not get so out of control.
W.

I think I would help her (coach, show, etc) clean her room a couple of times. She is still pretty young and may be a bit overwhelmed on where to start or what exactly needs to be done. After she has gotten the hang of it either use the deductable allowance idea that was presented or give her a deadline to clean the room (daily, weekly, what ever the two of you agree on). If she doesn't have her room cleaned by that time then you can clean her room and keep anything you pick up.

Hi,
I would have a sleep over with my daughter's friends, and this always prompt her to keep it clean :)

I took a parenting class and that topic came up a lot for some of the Moms including me. The speakers told us to pick our battles. They basically said if the child just wasn't cooperating, you may want to just leave well enough alone and close the door. In your case, you said your daughter is all around good except for that. I have 3 ages 16, 15 and 8. The 15 and 8 are boys and it is a constant problem. So instead of driving myself crazy, I close the door most of the times. When I can't take it any more, I refuse to do certain things for the 15 year old until the room is cleaned. I don't take him to the movies. I don't take him to practice. Basically all the things he loves to do comes to a halt until he cleans up the room. The clean room last maybe a week and then it is back to messy. I tolerate it for a few weeks, then we repeat the witholding of privileges. In the case of the 8 year old, he too don't get certain privileges until the room is picked up. The speakers basically suggested that if the safety of the child is not in question, then a lot of stuff we stress about, we should just let be. A clean room was one of those issues. D.

My children are 4 and 6 (as of last Tuesday). I realized that they had no idea what it meant to clean a room and so I helped them clean up each of their rooms -- as we cleaned I talked with them about taking only one or a few things out at a time. Once we finished cleaning I took detailed pictures of each shelf, the closet, the bed... I printed the pictures on inexpensive paper and they each helped me post the pictures in the appropriate places and they are responsible for making their rooms look like the pictures every night before bed. If they get too much out at once it is more overwhelming for them, but they are able to work through the mess. Since you have indicated letting your daughter's creativity shine perhaps you can allow her to decide how best to organize her room, but then either use pictures or make a list like someone else mentioned to help her keep it looking neat. I try to make the clean-up process fun as well with music and playful dance etc. I know listening to my favorite music while cleaning helps me get the job done.

Dear J.,
I also had a messy room daughter right around that age.
She was very diligent about everything else, but man, her room. I say choose your battles. Tell her what you expect and hope from her. And you ARE the mother so your rules are important. If she tends to be on the messy side of her room, it's not the end of the world. She will either grow out of it or always tend to be messy.
When I am at work, my desk looks like a cyclone hit it. But it only belies how many things I'm juggling. And I know where every single thing is. I took a day off and a co-worker was bored and decided to clean my area for me. He may as well have chopped both my hands off. I couldn't find a single thing. Files were misplaced and documents were put in the wrong files. I loved the guy very much, but I was so furious. He was trying to help and all it did was make a big mess. There is nothing wrong with neatness. But your daughter may have a way of "organized chaos" that you can't understand. That's why God made doors. You can close them. As long as she's not leaving pizza under her bed to rot for 3 weeks or something, you can work with her on the "messy" part. You can always say, "If you want a friend to come over, your room has to be picked up." That always worked with my daughter.

Good luck!

Have her pick it up before bed each night. After helping them get it organized, I tell my girls to take 15 min. each evening to pick up their rooms. That way its safe to walk through and it keeps it from becoming an extreme disaster. I don't believe in letting children do whatever they please in their own room. It doesn't stiffle creativity to have a little order in your living space. You're teaching her a life skill.

I've heard great things about housefairy.org It teaches kids how to organize drawers, keep their room neat, etc. I have not tried it but know people who have. Good luck!

I agree with that one. GREAT idea.
Our daughter is five and she has to have her room picked up every night before bedtime. Once a month or so I go in WITH her and WE really clean it.

I have a 9 year old son and 14 year old daughter. I tried everything in the past and the one thing that worked for my kids was to take away something they desire - money/allowance. I don't expect their rooms to be perfect, but they need to be tidied up before school or before they go to bed and I kept getting angry and frustrated.

Now, I link a tidy room with allowance. Basically they START OUT with allowance each week and I deduct either 25 cents or 50 cents per day their rooms are not clean, beds made and their bathrooms are left a mess. They ended up with basically no allowance the first month, then it started improving little by little because they realized in order to get the full allowance they need to contribute their share as a part of the family we need to pull together, otherwise the money gets taken away. Their rooms are not perfect and they sometimes blunder, but it's not anywhere what it use to be. GOod luck!

Oh my goodness! I have four children and understand your situation entirely. I'm sorry to say that I've given up that battle. It is their room and if they choose to live in such clutter and clothes mounds so be it. I used to never have that attitude but it was so stressful trying to "make" them clean their rooms. It would take time from me doing whatever it is I wanted to do because I would go sit in their room and crochet while I supervised the cleaning. The rooms would just get messy again and again and the cycle would start all over. My solution is I keep the doors shut when company is over. I do make the kids straighten their rooms if they are going to go somewhere or have a friend over but it definitely isn't what they call "mama clean." If the kids have a friend over I always say "excuse XYZ's room, he/she hasn't learned to clean it yet." At least that way their friend knows that I don't actually think that my kid is living in a "clean" room. I'm just plain old tired and it isn't worth stressing out over. Yes, I'm truly embarassed of their rooms but not enough to lose precious time with my husband or crafting anymore. Life is too short to stress about the looks of their room. It has taken me 20 years but I'm trying to keep that mindset. Good luck to you, B.

My son would never clean up his room... if I told him to do it, he would shove everything in the closet or under the bed... sooooooooooooo, one day I told him if the room wasn't clean by a certain day, I would clean it. I believe this scenario happened a few times until one day when I was cleaning it, I accidently threw out his magic tricks. When he discovered this, he also discovered it was garbage day and they were gone. After that, his room remained clean and spotless until he moved out. He was about your daughter's age when this happened.

One thing that I did to help it along was his choice of sleeping... he had a sofabed in his room, a coffee table, and a table that served as a TV stand and storage. This allowed him to have his own "living room" for his friends to visit.

On the other hand, my daughter was extremely messy and nothing worked but today she is the perfect housekeeper... but then so is my son.

So, in hindsight, I would probably try the "you cleaning her room" after giving her so much time. I would preface it with if something is thrown away accidently, it will not be my fault... and then go for it. Who knows... it might work after one or two times. Good luck!

It only gets worse so keep on her now. It gives her responsibility and encourages her to respect the wishes of other people and others things like your house. This is just one of the many training things we do to prepare them for adulthood. I told my kids if it was on the floor it was mine and would go to the garbage.

I wouldn't just close the door. But you do need to decide if it's important because telling her it's her space and then losing it might be a little confusing.

I tell my daughter she needs to have it cleaned up before bath time (and she has plenty of warning about when that is coming). I walk through her room and any toy still out gets put in my closet for a few days. That usually works pretty well. I have to give her lots of "I'm coming in to check" type of warnings.

That goes for toys around the house too.

Good luck.

My son is also very creative and often he is in the middle of a project at the end of the day and wants to work on it when he has some free time. Some times it's several projects. We have a deal that every two weeks everything has to be put away or what ever is left out is donated to a worthy cause. I taught both my children early on how to clean there room so when it's time to clean up they do know where things go, and we always have a "junk drawer" for the misc. things. It works MOST of the time! :)

It is her personal space and I would acknowledge it but it also needs to be safe and functional. What if there was a fire? If her floor is covered in toys they can all get set ablaze and make it impossible for her to escape and also trip up you or a firefighter trying to rescue her. She may not like it but the floor has to be clear for everyone's safety and sanity (I mean if you come in to kiss her goodnight and do a face plant on a toy it may not be life threatening but it sure as heck will make for a bad ending to the night).

We clean before we go to bed. I try to also get my little one to clean after each activity but honestly, it doesn't always happen. I do make sure we clean before leaving the house or bed though and especially before TV because let's face it, they can get carried away with it and loose total track of the time.

Children have a sensitive period for order which comes around 18 mos to three years old. This time period is the best time to teach children to clean up and put away things after each use. However, your child can still learn this desire for order. If you teach her to respect her things by having her clean up, she will begin to desire the clean room. After a while, she will do it on her own.

Hi J.,
I just read your letter so my response is late.Someone else may have suggested this already but I think you should SHOW her how to clean her room and how to manage it daily so her room doesn't become overwelming for either of you. It's a process and it takes time. Patients is key.

Use the time to bond with her and talk with her. As time goes by make sure you're doing more listening and less cleaning.

And you should set some boundaries and stick to them.

In our house if my daughter's room and bathroom are not clean, she doesn't get to go anywhere or do anything until both are clean, and cleaned according to the way I taught her.

We started this process when she was 9, and now she is 13. This has been very effective with us. She now cleans the room on her own and has for a couple of years. As a teenager she has a busy schedule and doesn't want to miss any of her activites. We still talk in her room.The communication is now an essential part of both our days but we're not cleaning, and we're still bonding.

I hope this helps and I'm sorry if this is a repeat of something previous.

My daughter is the same way. At 11 she is finally caring enough to clean her room up. Part of the problem is that she didn't know where to start. She felt overwhelmed. After doing it with her she finally started to get the hang of it. Also, with friends coming over, she wanted to neater room. It matters more, at this age, what people think of you-so that made a difference. I am sure your daughter will get the hang of it in time. :)

This could be a description of my life/house/daughter (except that I really AM a neat freak).

My hard and fast rule is that shoes, hats, backpacks, lunchboxes, and clothes all go away immediately (after all, these are not toys or treasures). I make the bed every day, and try to live with the rest of the clutter. The Easter basket is a year-round accessory in her room (as well as a repository for stickers, party bags, miscellaneous candy, gum, and small toys). Occasionally I'll insist that the desk be cleared off so it can be used.

A friend (who makes me look like a slob) has art scrapbooks for her kids. She lets them keep big, unruly, 3-D art projects for as long as she can bear it. Then she takes pictures of them, puts them in the album, and lets go of the originals. I have yet to implement that one. I think my kids would freak out!

Good luck.

Hi J.-
I was that child. My mother and I fought over the cleanliness of my room for years. She used to take things out to see if I noticed they were gone. Until I found the hiding spot. Then she just started closing the door. My mother totally gave up hope that I would ever have a clean room. Even to the day I got married and moved out, she never thought my room would be clean. I am proud to say at 28 years old, my room is clean. Not as awesome as I would like, but clean.
Pick and choose the cleaning battles. I was taught to clean. My mother even helped me on occasion try to put my room in some semblance of order. It didn't always work, but she tried. She got frustrated with me A LOT!!!
So, teach her to clean. Show her what's acceptable and what's not. I am an artist, and find it hard to organize the simpler things in life. Show your daughter and eventually, she will figure it out. Maybe encourage her to ask for help in those areas, like making the bed and picking up laundry. Cleanliness, while a chore, should be seen as a reward. I find it much harder to be creative in a huge mess than in my clean room because too many things are vying for my attention. But cleanliness is also in the eye of the beholder.
If she ever seems embarrassed by it, like if her friends saw it, then offer to have a mommy daughter cleaning day and help her organize. She will eventually learn, and I hate to say it might be a lengthy process. Maybe even sit her down and ask her if her room needs to be that way, and if not, ask her how you can help her to change it to not only encourage her creativity, but to help you both stay on a positive mental note.
Good luck! And don't give up. Remember, 28 years in the making and I've almost got it down. =)
-E.

I think you should tell her she can use her room (almost) any way she wants, however, she has to clean up every evening. Children need to learn to clean up after themselves and to be responsible. You would not be doing her any favors if you didn't teach her to clean up after herself. At some point she will want to go to a friend's house to play. the friend's mother may not invite her back if she fails to help clean up before she goes home. You don't just teach your children for your sake but you teach them for the sake of those people they will come in contact with!

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